I have been using TB for reference management for quite some time, and I have experimented with different ways to do it. I'm using TB9 now, because the preview of files (mostly pdfs in my case) really changed my approach. The advantage of TB is that you can organize the information in many different ways, resting assured that no matter how you do it, you can always retrieve it almost instantly with the search function. I organize my references in TB not because I want to have a way of retrieving something fast, because 99% of the time I can do that just using the search function with very few strokes (even just using the search function of the Mac OS), but because I want to explore and see how the information relates to each other and to how many hierarchies it belongs. That is something that most specialized reference managers can't do well, or at least they can't do visually. If it helps, this is a bird's eye view of how I organize my references:
- They are organized mostly by topics. Topics are thoughts of the type "Topics" (very imaginative). In other systems topics would be keywords or tags, but using "thoughts" allows me to generate a visual structure or hierarchy of topics. For example, if I have an article on fluid resuscitation in sepsis, it resides under "Work-References" -> "Sepsis" -> "fluid resuscitation" (of course, the beauty is that it can also have other parent thoughts if it relates to more than one topic)
- The source (a medical or scientific journal in most cases) is the abbreviated name of the journal as a tag. In that way, when I look at the list of the references under fluid resuscitation, I can see that this particular reference was published in the "CritCareMed" (Critical Care Medicine) journal
- The name of the thought for the reference always include and starts with the year of publication, and is the original name of the article. In medicine and science, sometimes that makes for very long thought names. I experimented with assigned shorter names in the past, but that can lead to duplications when you are dealing with thousands of references like in my case (my TB is going over 10K thoughts now). I include the year first, because if a see that a review on septic shock is 10 years old, I know that the article is not up-to-date and might be stale.
- I use link types. If an article relates to another but it's not worth to create a separate topic, I just link them. But if it's an editorial on that article, I use a special link of different color and with the label "Editorial" (again, very imaginative). If the article is a review on a published book, the link will be of a different color with the label "Review"
- I use plain thought types for the articles in journals, but books will be a different thought type (three types actually, one for books that I have read, one for books that I own but haven't read, and one for books that I don't own but I might consider to buy).
- I use a few additional tags for special things. I have a red-colored tag for "Key-Reference", I have one for my own publications, one for "graphic" or "photo"
- I don't store in the TB the author information, except for selected authors, and when I do I will have a thought for the author, with the child thought as his/her publications.
Again , the whole idea is that when I see a reference, I can immediately see from the list of references under what topics is under, what's the year of publication, what journal, and if it's linked to other references, and if it's an important reference or not. Of course, the ability to preview the pdf in TB9 adds even more (visual) information.
Hope this helps.